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Saltee v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

March 8, 2016

ROBERT E. SALTEE, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

ORDER

JEFFREY L. VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Robert Saltee filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement in this case. (Docket 75). The government resists the motion. (Docket 80). Based on the analysis below, plaintiff’s motion is denied.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., alleging medical negligence against the defendant for the surgical care received during a bilateral knee replacement at the Arizona Veterans’ Administration Center (“VA”) on July 26, 2006. (Docket 6). The government denied plaintiff’s allegations. (Docket 8).

On September 9, 2010, the parties filed a stipulation for compromise settlement and release of federal tort claims (“settlement agreement”). (Docket 70). On September 10, 2010, the court entered a judgment of dismissal with prejudice. (Docket 71).

On July 1, 2015, Mr. Saltee filed a motion seeking enforcement of certain terms of the settlement agreement. (Docket 75). The essence of Mr. Saltee’s motion is that the government improperly asserted setoffs and recoupments through the VA against the funds received by Mr. Saltee in the settlement. Id. at p. 1. The government resists Mr. Saltee’s motion on two grounds: (1) the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to consider plaintiff’s motion; and (2) the terms of the settlement agreement have not been violated. (Docket 80 at p. 1). The court must first resolve whether it has jurisdiction over plaintiff’s motion and then, if jurisdiction exists, determine whether the government violated the settlement agreement.

SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). In Kokkonen, neither the settlement agreement nor the district court’s dismissal order “reserve[d] jurisdiction in the District Court to enforce the settlement agreement, indeed, [the order] did not so much as refer to the settlement agreement.” Id. The Supreme Court acknowledged that “ancillary jurisdiction . . . . [exists] for two separate, though sometimes related, purposes: (1) to permit disposition by a single court of claims that are, in varying respects and degrees, factually interdependent, . . . and (2) to enable a court to function successfully, that is, to manage its proceedings, vindicate its authority, and effectuate its decrees . . . .” Id. at 379-80 (internal citations omitted). Focusing on the second factor “relating to the court’s power to protect its proceedings and vindicate its authority, ” the Supreme Court found “that the power asked for here is quite remote from what courts require in order to perform their functions.” Id. at 380.

Based on the facts before it, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not have ancillary jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement because neither the parties nor the district court intended to “provide for the court’s enforcement of a dismissal-producing settlement agreement . . . .” Id. at 381. Absent the district court’s expressed or implied intention to retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the parties’ settlement agreement, the Supreme Court held there was no “independent basis for federal jurisdiction.” Id. at 382.

The district court retains “[a]ncillary jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement . . . ‘if the parties’ obligation to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement [is] made part of the order of dismissal-either by . . . a provision “retaining jurisdiction” over the settlement agreement . . . or by incorporat[ion of] the terms of the settlement agreement in the order.’ ” Miener By & Through Miener v. Missouri Department of Mental Health, 62 F.3d 1126, 1127 (8th Cir. 1995) (citing Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 381). See also Morris v. City of Hobart, 39 F.3d 1105, 1110 (10th Cir. 1994) (“A district court can, however, retain jurisdiction over a settlement agreement if the order of dismissal shows an intent to retain jurisdiction or incorporates the settlement agreement.’ ”) (citing Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 380-81); McKay v. United States, 207 F. App’x 892, 894 (10th Cir. 2006) (citing Morris, 39 F.3d at 1110) (citing Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 380-81); Rosner v. United States, 517 F. App’x 762, 765 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Fund, Inc. v. City of Atlanta, 701 F.3d 669, 672 (11th Cir. 2012) (referencing Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 380-81)). “Ancillary jurisdiction to enforce the agreement exists in these situations because breach of the agreement violates the district court’s judgment.” Miener, 62 F.3d at 1127 (referencing Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 381).

The court intended to retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement in this case. The court specifically referenced and incorporated the settlement agreement into the order of dismissal.

Pursuant to the parties’ stipulation for compromise settlement and release of Federal Tort Claims Act claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2677 and dismissal with prejudice (Docket 70), it is hereby
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that this matter is dismissed with prejudice with each party bearing their ...

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